Know the Law – Buying Cannabis in Seattle Dispensaries
We are currently living in a golden era of cannabis.
Medical and recreational use of cannabis is legal in Washington State – including right here in the fine city of Seattle and its local Seattle dispensaries. But for those new to the game (including the hundreds of thousands of cannabis tourists who visit the state every year), there is more nuance to the law than you might imagine.
In this article, I will explain clearly to you the finer details of cannabis legislation in Seattle.
We’ll answer all the burning questions, such as:
- How much can I buy/possess
- Can I smoke in dispensaries?
- Where is it legal to consume cannabis?
- Can I grow my own plants?
With this knowledge in hand, you will be able to buy and consume safely while ensuring you stay firmly on the right side of both State and Federal law.
So without further ado, let’s get to it!
Seattle Dispensaries – A brief history
For many people, the history of cannabis conjures up images of carefree hippies, smoking cannabis as a middle finger to ‘the man’ and using the plant as an umbrella for the counter-culture movement.
But the real history of cannabis stretches back much further than the swinging sixties.
Humans have been cultivating hemp and cannabis plants for millennia and using them for all manner of uses such as clothes, food, and building material. There are even Chinese medical texts that date back before the birth of Christ that detail the many medical uses for the much-beloved hemp plant.
So when Washington State passed Initiative-502 in November 2012, legalizing the recreational use of cannabis for its citizens, many saw this as a return to the natural order of things.
But it wasn’t all cut and dry.
There was still significant and vocal opposition to the change in law, including at the national level. Cannabis remains illegal in the eyes of federal lawmakers, and many still have reservations about the impact of cannabis on crime, young people, and society at large.
The result of this ongoing conflict is that cannabis is legal, but there remain many regulations and laws on how you can obtain cannabis and where you can smoke it.
Let’s dive into the basics.
Obviously, when lawmakers legalized cannabis, they didn’t want to empower black market dealers and the gangs that profit from such activities. So they created what many cannabis users see as god’s greatest gift to humankind – the dispensary.
First things first – you ain’t getting into a Seattle dispensary if you’re under 21. This is the first and most fundamental law of cannabis in Washington State. Consumption is strictly for those over the age of 21.
A lot of dispensaries will have private security who will ask for photo ID before allowing entry. So if you are close to this age or are lucky enough to look it – don’t forget to grab your ID before you head to your local dispensary, or the chances are you won’t even get in the door.
If you’re thinking of playing the nice guy act and buying cannabis for someone under 21, think again. Supplying to a minor could see you slapped with a $10k fine and a year in jail.
And kids, listen up. Wait until you’re 21. Don’t think for a second that the law will go easy on you just because of your age. You risk a fine, landing your parents in a lot of trouble, and you could even have your driving privileges revoked for up to 3 years.
How Much Pot Can I Buy?
Cannabis can make you a bit lazy, right? So you’re probably thinking, ‘I’ll just go out and bulk buy 5 ounces of flower, so I don’t have to keep going to the pot shop every time I run out.’ (Jeez, how much do you plan to smoke.)
Well, I’m afraid you’re going to have to rethink this time-saving weed hack.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, one of the aims of legislation is to take cannabis out of the hands of street dealers and to make sure the relaxed laws didn’t actually make it EASIER for distributors to get hold of large quantities.
So, for obvious reasons, there is a limit to how much you can purchase and possess at any one time. Check out the chart below.
Maximum possession amounts:
- Cannabis flower: 1 ounce
- Cannabis-infused edibles: 16 ounces
- Liquid edibles: 72 ounces
- Cannabis concentrates: 7 grams
Dispensaries will not sell you any more than the amounts listed above.
Yeah, you could be smart and hit up ten dispensaries in one day and walk away with 10 ounces of bud or 720 ounces of liquid edibles (man, you really need to lay off it). Still, if the boys in blue catch you with this amount on your person or in your home, you’ll likely be banged up under suspicion of intent to distribute.
However, traveling to and from dispensaries can be more difficult if you are using cannabis to treat severe medical conditions, especially if you’re living out of town where dispensaries are harder to find.
Luckily, lawmakers foresaw this problem and allow official medical users to carry slightly more, as stated below.
Maximum possession amounts for medical users
- Cannabis flower: 3 ounces
- Cannabis-infused edibles: 48 ounces
- Liquid edibles: 216 ounces
- Cannabis concentrates: 21 grams
Where can I smoke?
So you’ve just stepped out of one of our fine Seattle dispensaries, overjoyed at the organically grown super strain you’ve just purchased, and you’re itching to blaze up. So you can just light up there in the shop, right?
Smoking in dispensaries is against the law, and you’ll be putting the distribution licenses of the shop owner in jeopardy. The chances are you’ll get yourself a lifetime ban from whichever store in which you try this.
Smoking on the street outside is likely to generate the same results. In fact, consuming cannabis in any form in public places is strictly against the law. Consumption is only permitted in private residencies, and you must ensure that the smell of it isn’t drifting into public spaces.
Enjoying cannabis in the comfort and safety of your own home is the best practice to stay on the right side of the law.
Edibles are the most discreet way to consume. There is no smell, and most edibles packaging is easily mistaken for regular food packaging. But rest assured, eating or drinking edibles in public can still get you in a lot of trouble.
Public park and cannabis clubs
Public parks are another place you need to be especially careful. A lot of parks are federally managed and owned. So you may be thinking you’re safe in the open, outdoor spaces, but on the off chance that you are caught, you will be breaking both State and Federal law. And trust me, those feds aren’t messing around.
Cannabis clubs are a hot topic. They are still very much against the law, but they are the new focus of cannabis activists who seek to provide a safe space for cannabis users. Rumour has it that such underground, unlicensed clubs do exist in Seattle. But don’t be fooled, these spaces do not offer immunity, and you’re putting yourself at risk if you enter.
However, if you’re coming from out of town to sample Seattle’s fine cannabis delicacies, there are certain hotels that will allow you to consume on the premises. Cannabis tourists are advised to speak to hotel management to clarify their in-house rules before booking.
Can I grow my own?
This is one I can’t quite get my head around. My only guess is that state lawmakers don’t want a single cent of taxable cannabis to slip through their fingers and are worried how much they would lose out if people took to their own gardens.
Again, this is an area activists are pushing for change, but for now, it’s strictly illegal. Even dispensaries and businesses that process cannabis are banned from growing. Anyone flouting this law can expect to be slapped with a $10k fine and face five years behind bars.
Medical users do have a pass here. Cardholders are allowed to grow up to six plants, and your doctor can authorize up to fifteen plants. As a result, medical users who grow are also entitled to possess higher amounts of usable cannabis. If you’re growing six plants, you can possess 8 ounces, and if you have 15 little green babies, you can hold 16 ounces.
Growing co-ops in Seattle have a rich history. In the days before legalization, there was a grey area where people were allowed to use cannabis to treat medical conditions, but dispensaries and all forms of distribution remained illegal.
To plug this gap, cannabis cooperatives began to spring up. These co-ops supplied weed to those patients who desperately needed it, giving relief to thousands of people suffering from AIDs, cancer, and other life-threatening diseases.
When the state cracked down on these co-ops, one such patient, a Tacoma attorney named Ralph Seeley, sued Washington State for restricting his access to the cannabis he was using to treat the symptoms of bone cancer. The lawsuit, and the publicity and reaction it generated, set the ball rolling for the changes in legislation we are all grateful for today.
“Collective gardens,” however, remained illegal until 2016. Co-operatives which grow medical marijuana for those who cannot afford dispensary prices are now legal but under strict conditions.
Each co-operative can only supply a maximum of four patients, the grow must be located on the premises of one of the members, and none of the product can be sold to other people.
On the upside, co-ops can grow up to 60 plants at a time and possess up to 72 ounces. Music to the ears for those who use cannabis as a safe and natural alternative to addictive and damaging pharmaceuticals.
The loose ends
So we’ve covered most of the major do’s and don’ts of cannabis buying, possession, and consumption in Seattle. Hopefully, by now, you can enjoy cannabis in Washington State without having to worry about which side of the law you’re on.
But there are a few loose ends that need tying up before we’re 100% foolproof.
“Don’t drink and drive, smoke and fly,” or so the old adage goes.
While there is no specific law against the operation of aviation vehicles while under the influence of cannabis, I can only assume that like driving a car, it’s very much illegal.
The legal limit for driving is five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. It’s hard to know exactly how much cannabis you can consume and stay under this limit, so the best advice is don’t get behind the wheel if you’ve had any cannabis in your system in the last 24 hours.
Oh, and by the way, if you drive a car in Washington, you’re automatically giving your consent to be tested for intoxicating substances, so there’s no way around this one.
Many states allow their dispensaries to deliver cannabis directly to your door. Sadly, Washington isn’t one of them, and any business offering this service is putting both themselves and you at risk.
Similarly, it’s illegal to transport cannabis outside of the state. If you’re caught doing this, the cops will assume you’re doing so with the intention to supply and/or distribute.
Also, don’t think of bypassing this law by sending your marijuana out of state by post. Both the sender and the receiver will be liable for prosecution.
Well, there we have it. Now you know the rules, and as my mother used to say, ‘don’t make me tell you a second time!’
But just in case, here’s a quick recap. After this, you’re on your own, kid.
- Possession and consumption is strictly 21+
- Do not consume in dispensaries
- Do not consume in public areas
- Don’t smoke and drive
- DO consume in private property
- Don’t carry more than the legal limit